By Matt Bradshaw —

U of L features 21 elite varsity sports, ranging from men’s soccer to women’s basketball and beyond.

With the 2018-19 collegiate year in full swing, I ask the question: Which sports are playing with the most success compared to all the others?

Over the course of five weeks, I’ll answer the question and examine the current outlook of Cardinal athletics. My list will rank every varsity sport by its relative success and achievements.

The criteria for success include performance during 2017-18 (winning percentage, conference play and overall accomplishments), current play and future potential.

This week, we start the 21-program countdown with five teams. Let’s jump in.

21. Women’s tennis

Overall 2018 record: 13-13

Conference play: 3-12

Season finish: Loss in ACC tournament

Women’s tennis dropped their final ten matches of the 2017-18 season, underscoring the crucible that is conference play. Head coach Mark Beckham recently released the challenging 2018-19 schedule and confirmed “The ACC is the best tennis conference in the country.”

Highlights from last season include defeating Notre Dame for the first time in program history and upsetting No. 36 Virginia at home.

20. Lacrosse

Overall 2018 record: 6-11

Conference play: 0-8

Season finish: Loss in ACC tournament

Lacrosse recorded their first losing record last season since 2012 and broke a six-season streak of NCAA berths.

From 2016-17, the program suffered hard times with the departure/transfer of 16 players and firing of 10-year coach Kellie Young.

Current head coach Scott Teeter came to U of L from Canisius with 130 career wins. While in Buffalo, he changed the culture of the lacrosse program and led the Golden Griffins to six postseason championships.

Expect coach Teeter to improve his squad year-to-year and build the foundation for a new era of lacrosse. He returns his top-scorers from last season in sophomore Caroline Blalock and senior Tessa Chad.

19. Men’s golf

Conference finish: 11th at ACC Championship

Season finish: Ninth at NCAA Regional

Men’s golf secured two team titles and four top-five finishes during 2017-18. 

Senior Simon Zach and sophomore Matthias Schmid led Louisville at the 2018 NCAA Columbus Regional, tying for 30th. Zach returns for his final collegiate season after one tournament win and two top-five finishes. Schmid led the team in stroke average (71.72) as a freshman.

U of L opened the 2018-19 schedule with a second-place overall finish at the Louisville Cardinals Invitational.

Schmid paced the squad with a 10-under-par performance for third place. Junior Devin Morely posted a career-high finish and shot six-under-par, tying for fifth place.

Earlier this month, junior John Murphy and freshman Jiri Zuska joined Zach at the World Amateur Championships. Zach and Zuska represented Czech Republic and Murphy competed for Ireland.

18. Men’s cross country

Conference finish: 15th at ACC Championship

Season finish: 18th at NCAA Regional

Senior Daniel Fleace led the Cards at the 2017 NCAA Southeast Regional, placing 68th and recording a personal best (30:57.2) in the 10K race.

Sophomore Albert Kosgei was the breakout runner of 2017. As a freshman, he won his debut meet at the Tennessee Dual, finished fifth at the Pre-National Invitational and 81st at the NCAA Regional.

This fall, Louisville was picked to finish 13th in the ACC. They won their opening dual meet versus Tennessee and placed second in the Vanderbilt Commodore Classic.

Emmanuel Cheboson took first place in the dual meet and second in the classic. He earned ACC Men’s Freshman Performer of the Week after the runner-up finish at Vanderbilt.

17. Softball

Overall 2018 record: 33-20

Conference play: 10-12

Season finish: Loss in ACC quarterfinals

Softball’s 2018 season was the second consecutive year without an NCAA Regional Berth. It also marked the retirement of long-standing coach Sandy Pearsall.

The program played its inaugural season at the University in 2000. After 19 seasons as head coach, Pearsall acquired 718 wins, 13 NCAA Regional Appearances and four regional finals.

Holly Aprile takes over the mantle of head coach. The 2018 ACC Coach of the Year spent 10 seasons at Pittsburgh and led the Panthers to an ACC Division title this past year.

The team returns All-Region selections in senior Megan Hensley and junior Caitlyn Ferguson. Senior Sidney Melton and sophomore Maddy Newman earned All-ACC honors, junior Celene Funke led the squad in batting average (.355) and sophomore Danielle Watson led pitching with 14 wins.

You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.

File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal